One of the things I tell them pretty regularly is that their attitude determines the outcome. If you think badly about something, it's probably not going to go well. Granted, I am one of the world's foremost pessimists (ahem, realists) who always imagines the worst case scenario and then almost always finds myself pleasantly surprised when things don't go as badly as I suspected. However, I am painfully aware that when you enter a situation with dread, fear, anxiety, and hesitance, it robs you of the fullness of the experience, not to mention the time spent worrying about it in the first place. I would love to save my children the time it has taken me to learn this lesson.
And yet, I still haven't learned it myself.
I'm not sure if you've noticed, but this world's a hot mess. And, because I'm a pessimist, I don't have a ton of hope that it's going to improve a whole lot. I spend a lot of time lying in my bed at night, staring at the ceiling, trying to solve the world's problems. I think about all of it. All of the things.
Turns out, I have the solution for pretty much all of the conflicts in our world. It all comes back to one thing. We just need to love each other.
I don't know how to say this delicately, but we don't know what love is. It's not a flutter in the stomach or a pitter-patter in the heart. It's not sunshine and roses and putting on a happy face. Love is not an emotion or a feeling. It's not neat and tidy.
Love is action. It's messy and uncomfortable. Ultimately, love is a choice.
I'll repeat that part because it's what I want to stick.
Love is a choice.
This is best illustrated for me by imagining that one person. You have one too, I'm sure. That one person who just makes you insane. (If you don't have that person, let me know. You're probably more qualified to write a blog post about love.) I think of this person that irks me so badly I want to break stuff after our interactions. You know the easiest way to react? Write them off. Ignore them. Seethe about them. Send snarky texts about them to your besties. You know what's harder? Being kind. Being patient. Choosing to love them. You know why we should? That's what Jesus did. That's what Jesus does.
You know what would have been easier for Jesus than dying on the cross for the sins of millions of people who would scoff at, deny, and rebuke him for generations? Not dying for our sins. You know why he did? He chose to love us.
What is love?
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
It's work. It's a conscious, kicks-you-in-the-butt choice. It's hard.
I can tell you that patience, kindness, and humility do not come naturally to me. If I had to pick a character on Inside Out to represent my default emotion, it would most definitely be anger. And my memory for wrongdoings against me is long. Ask Sam how regularly I refer to wrongs I "suffered" in my childhood. (Hint: It's A LOT.) It is because of these facts I know that love is a choice. It's not a natural tendency. It takes work.
So, practically speaking, how can I love others?
I can listen more and react less.
I can try to understand the "why" behind other people's thoughts and actions.
I can stop holding minor offenses against people and being offended by every little thing.
I can regard others more highly than myself.
I can keep my mouth shut when the situation warrants.
I can say the hard things when the situation warrants.
I can persevere.
I can pray. For the lost, the downtrodden, the irritating, the displaced, the elected. By name.
I can remind myself that Jesus loves each and every one of them enough to die for them, the same as me.
I can let my attitude determine the outcome by deciding to love.
I can choose to love.